What if ... people took pride in their property?
My original article was almost finished. Just a few little touches and it was ready to send off. But then it happened. I saw it. Again. I knew that article would have to take a back seat to this new article. Rants should always take precedence over logic.
When I complete the form, it will be the third time I have officially contacted the town regarding a particular unsightly premises. Twice I have received a response, both of which go something like this. ‘Blah, blah, blah, talked to the owner. Blah, blah, blah fixing it up. Blah, blah, and another blah for good luck so you’ll believe my blah, blah’. To which I say bullpucky. I’m calling your bluff, homeowner. You have done nothing to fix your property…and you have no intention of fixing up your property. And for reasons unbeknownst to me the town is letting that go.
But, you know what, homeowner? You and your ilk are contributing to the demise of this town. The town you have chosen to call home is crumbling and you are playing a part in its demise. You and the other irresponsible homeowners/landlords are impacting on the future of this town — on whether people choose to move here, stay here, live here, visit here. So here’s my take. If you can’t afford the upkeep of a house, then don’t get one. You have no right to rent your home to someone or to own a home if you are unwilling to work your finances in such a way as to clean up your act. Literally.
When I submit my third report of disgust, I am fully prepared to receive the same meaningless response as I have received on both previous occasions. This town has one of two things - either a toothless municipal unsightly premises act or those responsible are unwilling to implement it. That it should take years to make a homeowner improve their property to an acceptable level tells me something is wrong somewhere. Look at all the people in the recently flooded hurricane areas that would give their eye teeth to have a home. And what does Amherst have? Dozens of unsightly premises. While the recent initiative to cost share for some areas is a good endeavour, I have trouble with compensating landlords by giving a financial incentive to people who are renting out their spaces. Why should I, as a taxpayer, pay an income-receiving landlord to fix up their property.
Here’s what I’d like to suggest to the mayor and council. How would it be if council were to implement a ‘What if....’ initiative. What if council said enough is enough. Let’s clean up this town. What if council determined a ‘best before’ date where a noticeable improvement must be apparent? What if council acknowledged the municipal unsightly premises directive is not strong enough and took steps to amend it. What if council determined who would actually be the main contact point on unsightly premises and gave that person major leeway in decision-making. What if council said in the interim make a listing of what would be considered an unsightly premise and contact the owner advising a plan to fix or clean up. What if council said homes and businesses in disrepair will not be an acceptable part of the Amherst landscape any longer. What if council said we’ll clean up or demolish as much as we are legally entitled and add it to the tax bill of the owner. What if council made a promise to clean up this town. I mean really clean it up. What if by doing this, Amherst became known as a town where you don’t fool around with council if your accommodations are not up to par. What if it became the norm that residents could come to expect a nice place to live and raise their families knowing Council will support such a strategy.
Some readers may instantly come to the defence of homeowners who have limited monetary funds and to that I say another bull-pucky. Cleaning up the yard, cutting the grass, ensuring your drapes hang nicely, planting a flower or two takes no money. My daughter and I spent our first dozen years in a low income area of Winnipeg (because we had a low income) but no one would ever have accused us of being anything other than good residents in the neighbourhood. We kept our yard clean and as apartment dwellers, cleaned that yard as well. Cleanliness doesn’t take money. You have to live somewhere. Why not make it look good.
The way I look at it, if you want to live in a neighbourhood, then be a neighbour. If the appearance of where you live doesn’t matter to you, then do us a favour and move elsewhere.
Amherst has no room for rot. Get with the program.